Interview: Ximena Criales


Mexico City

Job title

Graphic Designer

What words do you overuse at work


Recommended industry reading

The Art of Looking Sideways, by Alan Fletcher

Favorite hangout in Tokyo/Japan

Yoyogi Park or the Imperial Palace East Gardens.

What is your background?

I went to university in Mexico. I was initially interested in industrial design because I had an interest in large objects and projects, and wanted to create things for spaces.

But when I sat my college entrance exam, I realized that I would have more job opportunities in graphic design. I therefore read graphic design—majoring in interior design—for six years, including one in Turin, Italy, on a student exchange program.

What inspired you to become a designer?

I would say my family. My mother is very creative, and has always liked to paint. She always helped my four siblings and me with our art homework, thereby encouraging my interest in design from an early age.

My older brother, who is an architect, was also an early influence. Whenever he drew images at home, I watched closely and wanted to be like him.

What is good design?

That’s a hard question because what it is differs from person to person. For me, a design is good if it is successful in communicating its meaning to a viewer, or if it functions as intended.

If it has a sense of harmony and balance that catches the eye, making you take a second look, then that, too, is good design.

What designs have impressed you?

I love what Apple does: the simplicity of their designs, not just graphically but also in terms of the user experience. When you touch an Apple product, it feels good.

When I read the biography of co-founder Steve Jobs, which describes him as a perfectionist, I understood why the company is doing so well. It inspired me to look closely at their products, including the way they are put together. Their products and his philosophy are an inspiration for how I wish to work.

What is important for a successful design project?

Three things, really: first is that the client knows the outcomes they desire from a project. Second is that they trust us to deliver the best outcome for them. And third is that they provide constructive and timely feedback.

A client, for example, may have an idea that, as professionals with expertise in the domestic and international market, we think would not lead to the best outcome.

In such a situation, we hope they can trust us to use our knowledge and experience to create something that would appeal to their target audience, be that in Japan or elsewhere.

We appreciate constructive feedback from clients. It helps us sharpen our designs and moves the project forward to a satisfactory outcome.

What is your favorite project at Custom Media?

It continues to be creating designs for The Journal. It is an illustrious business magazine, but with a lot of scope for creativity.

I create infographics and imaginative layouts for editorial and sponsored content, for example, allowing me the opportunity to express myself. And from the feedback I’ve received, I believe our readers are really enjoying the magazine.

Who or what inspires you?

I get a lot of inspiration from my immediate colleagues: Paul, our studio manager, and Michael, our senior graphic designer. In addition to the great feedback they give me, I watch their work closely, and this has helped me improve as a designer.

Of course, I always get inspiration from various sites on the Internet. Recently, I’ve been inspired by Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, by David Sherwin.

This book offers challenges, such as designing a new typeface in one hour. To do this, I take photos of nature and try to mimic these natural designs in my own creations. Such exercises have been a great source of inspiration.

What are you looking forward to in 2016?

I’m interested in developing web design skills. As Custom Media continues to grow as a company, more opportunities are coming up for me to extend my skill set.

Web design has challenges different to that of graphic design, and I’m enjoying the discovery. Programming is also something that I want to learn more about in years to come.

GoConnect Debuts at Expat Expo

GoConnect Debuts at Expat Expo

On November 6–7 at Kamiyacho Trust Tower, the first public exhibition for international residents was held—Expat Expo Tokyo 2020. Custom Media’s recently rebranded platform GoConnect made its public debut at the event, with lots of giveaways from the platform and its Partners, as well as a raffle in support of a very worthy charity.

This is GoConnect!

This is GoConnect!

In March, we launched Connect by CM—a free digital marketplace platform to support local businesses economically hit the hardest by Covid-19, as an extension of the Custom Media website. Constantly innovating and adding new features by listening to our Members and Partners, the platform quickly grew beyond its earlier purpose.

Meet Custom Media’s Advisor

Meet Custom Media’s Advisor

I am mainly helping my Japanese clients to effectively access global audiences. Custom Media is based in Japan, and many of our customers are international executives living in Japan. They often play the role of an “international window,” since they are influencing people and frequently liaising with their counterparts back in their home countries.

Get in touch

Interested in working together with us?

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